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 In Today's eHay Weekly
 May 4, 2010

State-Of-The-Art Hay Marketing
RR Alfalfa EIS Still Expected This Year
Scissors Cutting Under Way In Minnesota
Midwest Straw Price Trends Mixed
Numbers Of Note
State Reports: California, Washington
Alfalfa Weevils Stirring In Nebraska
AFGC Registration Deadline Approaches
Calendar Of Events
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Top Of The News

State-Of-The-Art Hay Marketing
By Fae Holin
Managing Editor, Hay & Forage Grower

Andrew Clarkson, Oakley, IL, is finding some innovative ways to sell hay and straw – by contracting and by using Craig’s List and Facebook. Last year, Clarkson and his wife, Jessica, produced nearly 5,000 small square bales of alfalfa-grass hay, sold mostly to horse owners and the local Amish community. They also baled some rye straw.

Although they sell 60-70% of their crop via their Web site,, this past year they also contracted hay with a local customer.

“I said, ‘We know that you’re going to use roughly 300 bales all winter. Why don’t I lock you in at that and put it in our shed if you’ll give me your word that you’ll buy it until it’s gone?’ ”

Another grower wants to do the same thing this year, Clarkson adds. “He said, ‘I want 300 bales of your second and third cuttings, and I want to speak for it now before anyone gets to it.’ ”

It’s tough to lock in a price, Clarkson says. “But it’s money in the bank. He’s going to spend that money with me, and I’m willing to trade possibly a little bit higher price for the guarantee that he’s going to get it. The one rule I’ve made, though, is if I can’t trust the person, I don’t do business with him.”

Clarkson, who commutes to a fulltime job from the eastern side of Decatur to Harristown on the city's west side, also posted straw for sale on Craig’s List. “I got on Craig’s List in September and put on, ‘Hey, if you need straw, I’m driving through Decatur every day. For a $20 minimum charge, I’ll deliver anywhere in the metro area of Decatur for $4/bale.’ And I got cleaned out by November doing that.” He also was able to write off mileage to work as a farm expense, he says.

So far, Clarkson has had one hay sale using Facebook, a type of social media that he started using in January. For more on Clarkson’s experience with Facebook, see our social media stories in the May issue of Hay & Forage Grower. Or visit and search for social media.

To contact Clarkson, email or call 217-972-9640.

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RR Alfalfa EIS Still Expected This Year
The final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready alfalfa remains on track to be completed this year, says Sid Abel of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

That’s despite comments made by attorneys arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court last week. The oral arguments were part of Monsanto vs. Geertson Seed Farms, a case in which the company is challenging the 2007 injunction that prohibited the sale and planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed until an impact statement is completed.

Two attorneys arguing for Monsanto told the court that APHIS now estimates that the EIS will be ready in about a year.

“We were very cautious in responding to the court’s request on how long it might take just because a lot of the processes are out of our control in terms of getting things done,” says Abel. “Our hopes are to still get it completed by the end of the year.”

For more on last Tuesday’s oral arguments, see “RR Alfalfa Attorneys Argue Before Supreme Court.”

Scissors Cutting Under Way In Minnesota
A program aimed to help Minnesota alfalfa growers with first-crop harvest scheduling has started in the central part of the state.

In the University of Minnesota (UM) Extension alfalfa scissors-cut harvest-alert program, several alfalfa fields are sampled for standing-crop quality every Monday and Thursday. Results from the sampling are shared on local radio stations, online at the Minnesota Crop News Web site and via a call-in, phone messaging system – 800-964-4929, ext. 5081.

“Cool weather is slowing growth,” says Dan Martens, UM Extension educator in Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties. First cutting may not be two weeks ahead of schedule, but growers should be prepared to take first harvest earlier than normal, he adds.

There are some exceptions, says Martens. Forage stands that shouldn’t be harvested “early” include those that will be fed to animals with low to medium nutritional needs and stands that suffered some winter injury. “Those stands could need more time to build below-ground energy reserves to power second-crop growth. Also, if you need more effective fiber in your ration, allowing more maturation before first harvest may make sense.”

For more information on the scissors-cut program, call Martens at 320-968-5077 or visit the University of Minnesota Extension forage Web site. The Central Minnesota Forage and Grassland Council is co-sponsoring the program with Extension.

Are you Ready To Roll this season? We are and that’s why we are offering 0% FINANCING or CASH BACK to qualified buyers on just about every new model tractor or hay and forage equipment from New Holland. Don’t wait! The Ready To Roll Sales Event ends June 30, 2010, so see your local New Holland dealer or visit for complete details.

Midwest Straw Price Trends Mixed
Prices for small square bales of straw averaged $2.70/bale in the Upper Midwest as of April 30, reports the University of Wisconsin’s Ken Barnett in his Weekly Hay Market Demand and Price Report for the Upper Midwest. That’s down 35% from those of the previous week.

Large square bales were fetching an average of $20.30, down 1% from the previous week’s average price. At an average of $26, large round bale prices were steady compared with prices of a week earlier.

Numbers Of Note
$16.43 Per-bale custom hay harvest rate (cutting, raking, baling) in Missouri for large round bales weighing 1,000-1,500 lbs, according to the University of Missouri’s 2009 custom-rate guide #302. For 750- to 1,000-lb bales, the average custom harvest rate was $15.33/bale.

$20 Annual subscription fee for the traditional print version of the Crop and Pest Report newsletter from the North Dakota State University Extension Service. Readers can access a free online version of the newsletter. The first report for this growing season will be available in mid-May.

$250 Per-ton price drop for anhydrous ammonia fertilizer between April 2009 and April 2010 in the North Central Region of the U.S., according to a recent Purdue University report (search for fertilizer prices). During the same time frame, potassium prices declined by $350/ton and phosphate dropped by $50/ton.

$33,417 Median 2009 net farm income of more than 3,000 Minnesota farms enrolled in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Farm Business Management Education Program. That’s a 66% drop from the 2008 figure. Reduced profits for nearly all livestock producers, higher costs for crop producers and large reductions in the value of crop and livestock inventories were factors in the decrease. See a report from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management.

Hay & Forage Grower – Digital Edition
Get all of the features of Hay & Forage Grower print editions with all the interactive capabilities only available online.

Here's a sneak preview of the highlights of the May issue:
  • Maximizing Returns
  • Steam-Cooked Hay
  • Why Use Social Media?
  • Getting More From Millet
Click here to view the digital edition.

State Reports: California, Washington
An unusual, month-long stretch of wet weather continues to hamper the start of the first-crop alfalfa harvest in the northern San Joaquin Valley. “We’re about a full month behind,” says Stockton grower Mike Robinson. In a typical year, most growers in his area start first cutting in late March/early April, he notes. As of early last week, he hadn’t cut any of his 500 acres of alfalfa. “Some people in the area did get a few fields cut before all the rain started, but just about all of that hay has been rained on two or three times.”

Robinson says the late start will likely crimp quality. “It’s been cool enough that the hay didn’t get over-mature. It will still be dairy hay, but the TDN is likely to be in that 53-55 range rather than the 56-58 range that is considered the real primo dairy stuff. As for prices, there really hasn’t been any good hay taken off to set a (new-crop) market.”

Robinson cut his alfalfa acreage in half this year in order to devote more acres to tomatoes, a higher-value crop. In the future, he’ll likely increase alfalfa acres again. “We got a little out of sync with our rotation,” he says.

Most of his alfalfa is put up in large square bales destined for the dairy market. He also produces 350 acres of hay from oats, beardless wheat and a forage mix. That’s put up in large squares and small three-string squares and most is marketed through his animal feed manufacturing business, Robinson Farms Feed Co.

Some growers could lose one cutting of alfalfa this season, Robinson says. Most growers in the area take six to seven cuttings a year. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the weather is like this fall.”

Bottom line, he says, the unexpected April rain has been a two-edged sword. “We’re not accustomed to this kind of late spring/early summer rainfall,” he says. “It’s been good for the new plantings of alfalfa and other crops. But we’re farmers. We want to get going with the harvest.”

To contact Robinson, call 209-466-7915 or email

A warm and open winter has the alfalfa crop off to a good start in the northeastern part of the state, says grower Kathy Olmstead. “Last year, we had nearly 5’ of snow,” says Olmstead, who, with her husband, Joe, owns JKO Ranch near Chattaroy. “This year we didn’t plow any snow.”

As a result, their alfalfa plants were 4-6” tall by mid-April. “Ordinarily, we don’t see that until mid-May,” she says. While the crop has gotten taller earlier, it’s maturing at the usual rate. So if the weather remains favorable, they’ll be on track to start first cutting in early to mid-June, about normal in their area.

The Olmsteads also put up alfalfa-grass on 60 acres and harvest another 320 acres for 21 landlords. All of the hay is put up as large round bales weighing around 900 lbs. Their market is roughly a 50-50 mix of small horse owners in the Spokane area (about 25 miles from the ranch) and local beef producers. They feed their lower-quality hay to their herd of registered Limousin cattle.

Last year, the Olmsteads put up 700 tons of hay. Most of that sold at an across-the-board price of $140/ton. For the 60-70 bales they have left to sell, they’ll drop the price to $100/ton. “We need to get it out of the barn to make room for new crop,” says Kathy. “We’d rather sell it at a lower price than have to stack it outside.”

On a side note: The Olmsteads will be co-hosting the Northeast Washington Hay Growers Association Annual Field Day on May 15. Joe is president of the association. See an online meeting brochure.

To contact the Olmsteads, call 509-292-2604 or email

Insect Update

Alfalfa Weevils Stirring In Nebraska
While alfalfa weevil damage has been spotty in much of Nebraska over the past few years, growers will want to keep a close watch on fields for signs of damage over the next several weeks, says University of Nebraska Extension entomologist Robert Wright. “The potential for damage always exists,” says Wright. “Alfalfa weevil feeding can cause severe yield and quality losses to first-cutting alfalfa.”

Wright suggests using a 15” sweep net as one way to quickly scout a field for weevils. The net will also come in handy later in the season when you’re scouting for potato leafhoppers and other insects in alfalfa. Sweep nets are available through many agricultural suppliers, including Great Lakes IPM, Gempler’s, Forestry Suppliers, BioQuip and others. Cost is typically in the $30-50 range.

Nebraska state meteorologist Al Dutcher has developed a state map predicting alfalfa weevil feeding activity based on accumulated growing degree days. Learn more about alfalfa weevils, scouting procedures and control options at University of Nebraska Crop Watch.


AFGC Registration Deadline Approaches
May 15 is the early registration deadline for the American Forage and Grassland Council’s 2010 Annual Conference. This year’s event will take place June 21-23 at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, MO.

Along with presentations and exhibits on the latest developments in forage and grassland research, the conference will feature a national forage spokesperson competition, forage bowl, national hay show, emerging scientist competition, photo contest and more.

The second day of the meeting is devoted to tours. See “AFGC Conference Goers To Do Field Research.”

Check the conference schedule and registration details.

Texas Forage Field Day Is May 14
Enhancing forage production will be the focus of the O.D. Butler Forage Field Day, scheduled for May 14 at Circle X Land and Cattle Co. in Bryan, TX. Topics to be addressed include renovating and re-establishing forage production, selecting grass varieties and brush and weed control products.

Registration will cost $20 and include materials and lunch. Producers who join the Brazos Area Hay Producers Association for $50 will get free field day registration, a hay sampling test and a hay directory listing.

For more field-day information, contact the Texas AgriLife Extension office for Brazos County at 979-823-0129. See a YouTube video from the 2009 Forage Field Day.

Calendar Of Events
May 6 -- Beef Cattle And Forage Crops Field Day, Kansas State University, Southeast Agricultural Research Center, Mound Valley Unit, Mound Valley. Contact Lyle Lomas at or 620-421-4826.

May 13 -- Legume Management In The Southeast: Field Day And Pasture Walk, Central Georgia Research & Education Center, Eatonton. Get details.

May 15 -- Northeast Washington Hay Growers Association Annual Field Day, Eric Ostby Farm and JKO Ranch, Chattaroy. Phone 509-725-4171.

May 19 -- University Of California Alfalfa & Forage Crops Field Day, UC-Davis Agronomy Field Headquarters, Davis. Get additional details.

June 9-10 -- Four-State Dairy Nutrition And Management Conference, Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA. Register online or download a brochure. Or call the Wisconsin Agri-Service Association at 608-223-1111 or Jim Salfer at 320-203-6093 or

June 23 -- Dodge County/Fond du Lac County (WI) Forage Council Twilight Meeting, Lemmenes Custom Farms, LLC, Waupun. Get more information.

Aug. 9-10 -- Kentucky Grazing School, Woodford County Extension Office, Versailles. Preregistration required. See a brochure.

Sept. 1-4 -- National Hay Association Annual Meeting, Griffin Gate Marriott Resort, Lexington, KY. Watch for details.

Feb. 24, 2011 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Fayette County Extension office, Lexington. Watch for details.


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